To celebrate Jetstar’s first direct Melbourne to Tokyo flight, we spent 12 intoxicating hours in the world’s most high-impact city. Here’s how it went down.
Fast paced and bustling in every direction, Tokyo is intimidating at first but it doesn’t take long to fall in love with this true urban jungle. My time in the city was brief, but plenty long enough to sow the seed of what is sure to be a life-long romance.
It would be impossible to experience everything that Tokyo has to offer in a lifetime, let alone a day. By sticking to the same general area, making sure everything was reasonably close by and easy to get to, I was able to fill 12 hours with a series of wonderful and varied Japanese experiences.
Here’s a look at 12hrs in Tokyo from 10am to 10pm, in the Shinjuku-Shibuya district.
A great place to start as it’s conveniently located next to Shibuya Train Station, is the fantastic Shibuya crossing, made famous in the west by Sophia Coppola’s film, Lost in Translation.
Pedestrians wait patiently on the sidewalk, and when that little man turns green everyone enters the intersection at once, from all directions. It’s a minute of organized chaos. Fascinating to watch and an exhilarating, real Tokyo experience.
Shopping at Shibuya 109
This enormous and on-trend mall has a dedicated tower for men’s and women’s fashion. They stand opposite each other on either side of Shibuya Crossing. The malls are unlike any shopping experience you will find elsewhere in the world; rather than being spread out these slim towers just go up and up and up. There are levels upon levels of little boutiques, and you’re sure to find something you can’t live without in each one. Be warned though, Japanese sizes run very small compared to the west and some may find it disheartening.
Lunch at Genki Sushi near Forever 21
I was surprised to discover that sushi is much harder to find in Japan than it is in Australia, but this sushi experience is so much better than boring store-front sushi shops that we’re used to. Diners each get their own booth and select their food from a touchscreen menu, to have it fly at them minutes later on a conveyor belt. You will see yours and other diners’ food shoot around the room, freshly made straight from the kitchen. With low prices in English and the ability to see what you’re ordering, this restaurant is very traveller friendly; and trust me, that’s what you’ll be wanting in this busy and confusing area.
Experience Takeshita Street in Harajuku
Consider taking cash only for this leg of your trip as here you’ll find yourself wanting one of everything. Takeshita Street is known for its Kawaii style, and is the center for everything Harajuku-style. From burger or hotdog printed socks to kitty backpacks and platform canvas sneakers, you’ll find all the kitsch you could ever want in Takeshita Street. Surprisingly, this is where you’ll discover a lot of vintage clothes and accessories, too. Takeshita Street is also the place to try proper Japanese crepes in Tokyo.
Meiji Jingu Shrine and museum at Yoyogi Park
Just across the road from the entrance to Takeshita Lane you’ll find Yoyogi Park. The park is more like a sizeable and stunning forest, with a few large paths running through it. In the centre of the park is the Meiji Jingu Shrine, a little bit of history in the centre of a modern city. There is also a museum in the park that is worth a visit for only 500 Yen entry.
Shinjuku Gyoen Gardens
With traditional French, English and Japanese gardens, you won’t become bored with the landscape while walking through these huge gardens. If you’re short on time, the highlight is perhaps the greenhouse, for its intense aromas. about a delightful feature of these gardens is that they change with the seasons; so visiting in the winter will be an entirely different experience to visiting in the spring. I just missed out on the cherry blossoms, but it was still breathtakingly beautiful.
Dinner and a show at Robot Restaurant
Robot Restaurant simply can’t be missed. If you haven’t heard of it, well, in the immortal words of Molly Meldrum – do yourself a favour and find out. It’s difficult to describe, but expect girls in bikinis, guitar playing robots, unbelievable costumes, lights, music, pole dancing, percussion, giant robots (and lots of them), weird and wonderful props, a huge cow and toys that children and adults could only dream of. This one of a kind performance is unforgettable. If it sounds crazy, it’s because it is. You can dinner eat here or at any of the wonderful little restaurants situated in the same area. Tickets are $60.00 AUD excluding food and drinks, but it’s worth every last cent and more.
Admire the neon city of Shinjuku
By the time the show is finished it should be dark out, which means that Tokyo will have transformed from its daytime façade into the incredible neon city that it is. Uber-urban Shinjuku is absolutely stunning in the day, but ten times so at night. I really can’t emphasize that enough. It’s a great area to just explore and while you wander with the entire world moving around you at super speed, take it all in: Tokyo just being its wonderful self.
Mardy travelled to Japan courtesy of Jetstar on their first direct Melbourne to Tokyo flight. Direct routes and fantastic prices? You’ve officially run out of excuses.